When you think about a farm you’ll most likely conjure up images of a rural landscape stretching as far as the eye can see. But city farms have also been growing vegetables, ripening fruits and raising animals in urban areas for decades.
From fresh food to education and a sense of community, city farms bring a host of benefits. For families that live alongside them, they provide a window to a more rural way of life.
What Is A City Farm Exactly?
City farms are places where you can experience rural life without leaving the city.
Community initiatives usually set up and run these farms in urban areas. City farms bring together all walks of life using the natural world as a bond. They grow vegetables, fruits, and flowers, and raise animals for petting farms or food. They also provide safe spaces for bee-keeping, and run all sorts of educational agricultural activities.
It’s not a new idea because many of our major cities were rural areas before the industrial revolution. Agriculture was pushed to the outer limits as a demand for factory labour increased. But during the World Wars our city farms really came to the forefront. Community parks were used to help grow enough food to feed the population. Even the grass around the Tower of London was turned into a vegetable patch.
UK City Farms
These days, city farms are not needed to feed us all, and the wartime city farms have shrunk back to allotments. But they still abound and are more common than you might think.
Here are a few of the city farms across the UK:
Vauxhall City Farm in London opened in 1976. It grows vegetables for sale, rears animals, and offers an animal adoption scheme. They provide educational, recreational and therapeutic activities.
Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh offers animal interaction. They also maintain an educational herb and sensory garden.
St Werburghs City Farm in Bristol allows animal interaction and has plants for sale. There are also volunteering opportunities and educational activities for children.
Oasis Down To Earth Farm in urban Southampton offers interaction with animals, plants, ponds and woodland.
Heeley City Farm in Sheffield is run by the community for the community. It features an educational centre, plants for sale and plenty of farm animals.
These city farms are spread out geographically. But they all offer the same basic principle which is to encourage people to come and get involved in rural life.
Old Macdonald Had a City Farm
A day in the life of the city farm changes depending on the season, as rural farms do. This is because plants and animals need caring for 24/7 no matter where they are being raised.
Spring and autumn tend to be the busiest times with baby animals starting to arrive in April through to September. But there is always something to see and do because farming is a year-round occupation. Educational talks and demonstrations are frequent occurrences too. Many city farms seek to educate urban dwellers about agriculture.
Visiting regularly highlights the natural seasonal changes. It also provides ample evidence that sausages don’t come from supermarkets. And that there’s more to vegetables than side-dishes or garnish.
Volunteers are always needed to keep these precious places open. City farms are usually a community initiative so there are little to no charges for visitors. If you have some spare time, getting dirty on the farm will bring a good deal of pleasure.
Why are City Farms So Important?
There are so many reasons why city farms are important places in the urban landscape. Not least because they provide a place for natural interaction.
Inner city life can mean relying on the shop-prepared foods, processed and pre-packed meals, factory farmed foods and fruit from halfway around the world. But local city farms can produce fresh foods, picked and sold on the same day. These foods have more vitamins and taste than those shipped across the globe.
Many farms offer a city veg-box scheme that promotes healthy choices. Once the process of growing fruit and vegetables is better understood, it inspires visitors to grow their own food too. Picky eaters who’ve had the opportunity to see their food growing may be more likely to eat it.
Kid Friendly Education
Children attending city schools may struggle to find a connection with the outside world. City farms provide that rural link and a chance for children to get their hands dirty, enjoy fresh air, and learn how food is produced.
Animal Welfare Promotion
The UK’s factory farming processes leave a lot to be desired. Yet if children are able to see firsthand how animals should be reared it’s possible that animal welfare will improve. Understanding what a sausage actually is, and the processes involved to make it, promotes compassion. This thorough understanding may also promote a desire to eat healthily. But without city farms kids have few ways of finding out.
Locally Produced Produce
Locally produced fruit, vegetables and animal products cut down on food miles. This is good news for the environment.
City farms also create a sense of community – a hub of healthy fun for all the family to enjoy and a place for locals to volunteer and make friends.
Health & Wellness
Research shows children and adults benefit when time is spent outdoors. They can pick up beneficial immune system strengthening bacteria, and breathe in fresh air. There is also the chance of improving fitness and beating loneliness. It’s all down on the farm waiting for you.
Go Get Involved
City farms, Pick Your Own initiatives and community gardens are dotted around the UK. Search out your local places and spend a day interacting with plants, animals and fresh air. All without a long, tiring drive into the countryside. It might inspire you to buy a tasty healthy veg box on a regular basis, volunteer, or get involved.
Children love the farm experience. Because city farms are great news for short and long term health as well as education, you really can’t beat a day there.
Farming isn’t confined to the countryside fields – it’s under your feet even if you live in the busiest urban areas. And everyone is welcome. These green oases in a sea of concrete bring welcome change to the cityscape. And they ask for very little in return.